UKZN Student Wins Award at Global Change ConferenceHumanities

Ms Nasiphi Ntshanga with her certificate at the Global Change Conference.Ms Nasiphi Ntshanga with her certificate at the Global Change Conference.

PhD candidate in the School of Agricultural, Earth and Environmental Sciences Ms Nasiphi Ntshanga has won the prize for the best student presentation at a UKZN-hosted national Global Change Conference.

The forum was the 3rd biennial National Conference on Global Change, held in Durban under the auspices of the Department of Science and Technology and the National Research Foundation.

Ntshanga’s presentation featured her PhD research on the effect of land cover transformation on the climatic stability of Cape Lowland vegetation.

Her research aims are to determine what proportion of the climate space of the historical extent of the major lowland vegetation types will be lost under future climate change and what the combined effect of transformation and climate change is on climatic stability for lowland vegetation.

‘As the environment changes, we need to be better-equipped to deal with the changes and how we react to them,’ said Ntshanga.

‘The ultimate goal of my doctoral studies is to produce a tool which can be used to help manage fragmented landscapes.’

Ntshanga, who decided to pursue a PhD because of her passion for learning and curiosity about the world, realised after completing her master’s degree that the work she wanted to do would require getting as much knowledge as possible.

Her supervisor is Dr Jasper Slingsby, an expert in Fynbos who introduced her to this system, while her co-supervisor is UKZN’s Professor Serban Proches.

Ntshanga, who attended the previous Global Change Conference, said presenting at this edition resulted in hoped-for interactions, feedback and potential for future collaboration.

‘My research links to the broader theme of global change in that it explores how different global change drivers interact, and how we can manage the interactions in a fragmenting landscape.’

Ntshanga said she was impressed by the number of younger students, especially those doing Honours, who presented at the conference and did well.

‘We need more mentorship in the Discipline,’ said Ntshanga. ‘When I was an undergraduate, doing postgraduate studies meant you would probably end up lecturing and being over-qualified for any job, resulting in very few carrying on with their studies. Even with enough funding, a good project and supervisor, we need mentors, especially women scientists.’

Ntshanga is considering the possibility of postdoctoral studies. ‘I am ready to dive in, work on big projects, supervise more students and do some exciting stuff,’ she added.

Christine Cuénod